It was completely by chance that I stumbled across Nan Goldin’s photography slide-show installation at the Louvre, which is part of Patrice Chéreau’s (the Louvre’s 2010 guest of honour) theme of ‘Faces and Bodies’. Nestled in one corner of the museum entrance, a huge display of photographs leading to a small screening room that was showing a short film every 30 minutes immediately caught my eye.
The show proved to be utterly absorbing. Nan Goldin was given permission to wander the Louvre at night, by herself, so she could take photographs of anything that caught her eye. The theme of the slide-show is ‘Scopophilia’, which comes from the Greek ‘Scopo’, to look and ‘Philia’ meaning brotherly love. Ultimately, this concerns the sensation of erotic, sensual pleasure that one can feel through the experience of looking.
The slide-show is composed of images and sculpture at the Louvre and Nan Goldin’s photography, some of which are from her private collection and have never before been exhibited publicly. Heavily linked to the theme of scopophilia, is female sensuality which is emphasised in the recurring images of the female form, female sexual pleasure and the female muse. Sculptures such as ‘Pygmalion and Galatée’ and ‘Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l’Amour’ are juxtaposed with paintings like ‘Gabrielle d’Estrées et une de ses sœurs’ and ‘The Turkish Bath’ and then Goldin’s own works of nudes, explicit sexual images and personal family portraits.
Goldin’s work could never be described as vulgar or pornographic; it is not sexually titillating in a perverse sense. It balances between art and erotica and does so with beauty and vivacity, capturing the human body in all its sensual glory.It provides a very interesting perspective on some of the works in the Louvre and if you walk around afterwards it is rewarding to see the real works, something like following a treasure trail. I had never before been fully conscious of the incredible dedication to the female form exhibited through works in the Louvre (a timeless male obsession, evidently) and it was interesting to think of her modern photography somehow capturing the same feelings of eroticism and mystification of women as a medieval painting. A very inspirational way of delivering a new perspective on timeless iconic art in the Louvre.